Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Tag: writing (page 3 of 4)

When I was younger and first breaking from Catholicism, I became very interested in Wicca and paganism. Something about the more natural ways of thought and worship appealed a great deal to me: I am by ethnicity, like, Scotch-Welsh-Dutch (or something); I grew up as a Boy Scout and so was often camping or hiking, which was why I liked the idea of nature as the truest and most accurate expression of the divine (I don’t know about God or Jesus either way, but show me a new day and I know where I stand); and I liked the idea of not having to go to Church or receive Eucharist or pray to know the way of God.

By the time I got to college, that had begun again to change. Studying theology with Robert Kennedy, roshi, S.J. remains one of the most formative experiences of my life, with consequences and repercussions I am even still parsing. Back then, in the way of the arrogance and pretension that became my characteristic for several years, I declared myself a “Zen Christian Wiccan,” because I thought I had discovered over the years that there is, inherently, either no difference whatsoever between prayer, spells, and meditation, or that the differences we perceive between them, like the differences we perceive between Coca Cola and Pepsi, more a result of brilliant advertising campaigns and the placebo effect than anything else.

Nowadays, I know better how little I know.

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(pretend there’s a little accent thingy over that ‘e’, please, because I think there should be one there. I could be wrong)

Wired‘s Paul Boutin notes that “blogging is so 2004.” Basically, Boutin seems to think that Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook have not so much rendered blogs obsolete as taken their thunder. Why blog when we can micro-Twitter and Flickr to our hearts’ content? His first paragraph indicates I need to quit blogging, because it just ain’t worth it, and I’ll never reach a level of, say, Gizmodo, the popular gadgets blog with a team of writers producing dozens of posts per day.

He’s probably correct. I think I hope he’s correct, in fact. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with blogging, I’ll admit, for personal reasons; while I do love to do it, and I love the instantaneous and often-collaborative nature of it, I feel like . . . well, I feel a lot like it takes away from my real writing. And I hate to say this isn’t my ‘real writing,’ but I’ve never thought of it that way, probably because I use different writing ‘muscles’ to blog than to write . . . well, pretty much everything else. I’ve been discussing with my students the idea of frameworks in writing, and I’ve always thought blogs have a different framework than anything else, probably because everything has its own framework.

Then again, that may be just me.

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I get another batch of student papers tomorrow, so I’ll have that to do over the weekend, but I’m also trying to finish a couple of other projects I’ve been working on. They’ve all been slow going, probably because I’ve got a lot going on.

So far, it’s two novellas and three short stories, though either of those novellas might end up longer than I think. The one I’m concentrating on most right now is called Meets Girl, and I’m hitting the end of the first act of the story but am already past the fifty page mark.

I’m hoping to finish all five by the end of November.

But I’m also winding down the publishing experiment I conducted over the past year and a half, and I do want to blog about it. It’s set me to thinking about a lot of different things, all related to writing and publishing and reading. I’ve been rethinking removing my content from Lulu, because so far it’s worked pretty well and maybe I shouldn’t try to fix it if it ain’t broke. I will be talking about my experience with Lulu, though probably not here (more on that to come).

Malcolm Gladwell, of The Tipping Point and Blink fame, has a really interesting article in the latest New Yorker, concerning “literary genius.” The main examples he makes use of are Ben Fountain and Jonathan Safran Foer, but he also mentions Picasso, Cezanne, Hitchcock, and Twain.

(via Galleycat)

I wonder about some of it. At least in terms of the two examples he uses, as both authors are still reasonably early in their careers (lives notwithstanding). Also: I know that part of Gladwell’s schtick, so to speak, is the whole Blink effect; that we decide everything right away, and I wonder if that conflicts with Chris Anderson’s idea of the long tail, i.e., selling less of more. Gladwell’s theories seem to work best on a short-term level; Hollywood blockbusters, first impressions, that kind of thing, but consider the opposite: the movie that has a modest opening but goes forever. It’s rare nowadays mainly because of quirks in distribution, but the idea of the sleeper hit used to be rather more common, I think.

Then again, maybe I wonder because I’m on the closer side to 31, which makes me feel a bit like a late bloomer. I started the novel that became The Prodigal Hour during my senior year of college, for all intents and purposes (though I’d begun the story years before), and I only actually finished it this past, what, July? August? Something like that. Over that decade, there were drafts and revisions and rewrites, over and over again.

Then again, I’m really only 30. I could still make that thirty under 35 list, and I still have a good few years for a shot at it.

But really, I think that what Gladwell misses is that it’s not a binary thing. It’s not an either/or situation, and I neither do I think it’s related to the writer, or the way writers create.

I think it’s related to the story. Some stories simply necessarily take longer than others, in telling and in execution, at least in doing them justice. Some stories take a while for gestation, and some even need to wait until you’ve got the craft to support your talent. During my twenties, I was often told I had a lot of raw talent, and really, I think it took more careful study of craft, not to mention greater discipline, to begin to refine it.

Me, I don’t worry about the timing, so much, most of the time. Most of the time I try not to think too much about the ultimate grail quest of getting published, mainly for the reason that so little of that quest is under my control. Gladwell mentions the market in his essay, which is an important consideration. Especially from my perspective: being a new and unpublished writer, I keep reading doom-and-gloom articles that the current state of the economy means fewer and fewer publishers are willing to take a chance on writers like me.

Then again, I look at that statement and I think: how is that different from usual?

My “About Me” page notes that I am, currently, an educator based in the Denver area, and I think I’ve mentioned I currently teach composition at a local community college. Previous to this year, I taught composition for a year at the University of Southern California, a name I don’t so much drop as note with gratitude; it was my great pleasure to serve my students there, as it continues to be to serve my students at my current institution. When I started blogging on MySpace, the idea of teaching hadn’t so much crossed my mind, and neither had the ideas of either Denver or Hollywood.

And I look around today, and I think: yowza. This, this is special. I’m extraordinarily lucky (and discover every day that the amount of luck I experience is directly proportional to the amount of effort I put into the work I do).

I mention this because I have now been teaching, at the college/university level, for more than a year, but today was the first day I was ever observed. I found out about the observation a few days ago, and just the idea made me nervous: ZOMG authority! What if they realize I’m a sham? What if they realize I’m, well, me, because no matter how many novels I write and how many people love my work and how many classes I teach, it’s still difficult to think of myself any differently. I’m just me, and I still feel like I’m goofy and silly and really lucky to be anywhere at all. Maybe that’s a self-esteem issue, or maybe it’s the truth. I don’t know. I just know that even though USC recognized me as an expert in writing, and even though I taught my students well enough that I went so far as to inspire them, in a few notable cases, it’s still difficult to realize that.

But today, the totally rad woman who is the composition coordinator of our department sat in my class to observe me.

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The desert
is all you can see.
Monochromatic, golden-brilliant:
the sun glares down on you so hard
your whole body squints.

You don’t remember how long you’ve been out here.
Your skin has leathered.
Your bones form odd angles and crevices beneath it.
It hurts to breathe.
The acrid air burns your lungs.

You mutter to yourself
under your breath.
You may be the only person
who has ever heard your voice.

Your lips are chapped,
broken and bled and scabbed over.
You would cry if you could remember
what moisture was.

You shuffle-shamble along.
Sometimes a burst of energy makes you sprint;
most times you are deliberate and going is slow.
Eventually you stop,
thinking you cannot go on.
But there is still much to say,
and so,
unable to find a stick with which to trace in the sand,
you gnaw into your wrist,
letting your blood.
You stain the world.
Whorls and swirls and symbols,
And you write:

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So, like I blogged about earlier, the American economy is basically in the toilet, and to quote Roger Clyne, “Everything’s going down, flowin’ counterclockwise.” Regardless of direction, the fact remains that, besides the bailouts of AIG, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, I’ve heard today that both Washington Mutual and Morgan Stanley are initiating sales of themselves (I know a couple of people who work for Morgan Stanley, and wish them the best).

New York/Manhattan is, obviously the epicenter of the financial industry. When the Dow sinks, it sank first in Manhattan.

Manhattan is also pretty much the epicenter of the publishing industry. And given that the financial climate is what it is, one would think that the publishing industry is every bit as concerned about its own welfare as financial sectors are concerned about their own.

And one might not be wrong.

For example, one of the regular publishing/agenting blogs I read is maintained by Lori Perkins, of the Lori Perkins Agency. Lori is extraordinarily well known in the publishing industry and has quite the agenting reputation. She is renowned and respected. This is her blog. I like reading her blog.

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Last week, several of my very favorite blogs helped me get the word out concerning my collection/essay.

Literary agent wunderkind extraordinaire Nathan Bransford noted it, along with several other terrific links (especially the ones to Swivet) in his routine This Week in Publishing roundup.

Dani Torres mentioned essay and collection both in Reading Notes over at A Work in Progress.

I discovered that my former classmate and fellow writer/blogger the illustrious Mister John Fox was actually there, that day, as well, when he mentioned it over at BookFox. Funny, that; John and I both taught in the same writing program and studied with John Rechy, and yet it never once came up between us.

Over at Book Addiction, Heather, who was a high school senior that day (no, I don’t feel old. Why do you ask?) mentioned it.

Besides the interview he ran over at Lulu Book Review, Shannon Yarbrough, author of Stealing Wishes, which is just flying up the charts at Amazon, mentioned it on his personal site.

Chartroose posted the essay in its entirety at the sublimely named “Bloody Hell, It’s a Book Barrage!

Trish, whose birthday is Dec. 7th, another day of infamy (I see you opening Wikipedia in another tab. It’s the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack) wrote about it at “Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?” and she’ll be happy I got the punctuation right.

Chandler Craig maintains Fumbling With Fiction and mentioned it in a post concerning book memory. She called me a nice aspiring writer, and she’d know; she’s one, as well, who writes Young Adult fiction and whose novel, Scout, just landed her representation with Daniel Lazar. If she weren’t so damned enthusiastic and didn’t totally deserve it, I’d be batshit envious about it, but I’m not, because it couldn’t have happened to a sweeter gal.

And finally, I’m mentioning this one last because it prompted some thought on my end. World Fantasy Award nominee Will Shetterly mentioned it at It’s All One Thing, (the WFA nom is for The Gospel of the Knife, and meanwhile, in a fun turn of events, his wife Emma Bull is also nominated this year, for Territory) and in the same breath noted some issues with the United way– that it’s not the most efficient charity out there and that it’s famous for paying its executives a whole lot of money.

I chose the United Way because I, personally, go way back with them. My father used to work at a local Mobil refinery and volunteered with the United Way when I was a kid; I remember, some summers, he used to get to use a van for a few weeks, though I realize now, thinking about it, I haven’t a clue why. Also because it was one of the reasons the Boy Scouts of America began to change its policies regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation. For a long time, the BSA denied membership to anyone gay, but some units actively began to defy national tenets in favor of keeping United Way funding.

That means a lot to me. The Boy Scouts was one of the most influential organizations in my life, and I value that every bit as much as I hate their discrimination policies.

Anyway, that was my mindset going in. And this is the mission statement of the United Way NYC:

United Way of New York City creates and supports strategic initiatives that address the root causes of critical human care problems in order to achieve measurable improvement in the lives of the city’s most vulnerable residents and communities. Throughout our work, we partner with neighborhood agencies, government, business, foundations, volunteers and others so that collectively we can achieve more than any one organization working alone. By leading programs that get at the root causes of problems in these five key areas, United Way of New York City creates lasting, systemic change: homelessness prevention, access to healthcare, education, building economic independence, and strengthening New York City nonprofits.

But now that I think of it, really, I realized I should put the question to you. Because it is, after all, your money. Is there somewhere else you’d like to know it went? I’m wondering if donating it to the American Red Cross might not be a better idea, as that would actively help other people affected by very similar tragedies, and Lord knows it seems to come up every year anymore.


And to everyone who mentioned it (I went by WordPress’ incoming links widget, so if I missed yours, let me know, or put it in the comments, please): thanks again.

In the spirit of lightening things up here a bit, I figured I’d post something more cheerful. To quote Tom Hanks in That Thing You Do! (which is certainly one of the most underrated movies of all time), I thought I’d give you something happy, something poppy.

Because it’s a perfect day for a ride, ain’t it?


I should really just sell the damned thing. Manhattan just isn’t a place for such a beast, much less the Village. New York’s a walking town. A subway town. Sometimes a bus town, and some other times still a taxi town. It’s a bustling town and a jogging town, a drinking and dancing and staying-out-till-4-am town, and in fact it’s a different kind of town just about every minute for just about every person in it, but it’s not so much a driving town. There are too many cabs, too many long limousines with precious celebrity cargo, too many delivery trucks and big buses, too many Lincoln Town Cars shuttling CEOs to the office and back. The air is too bright and the sounds are too vibrant and the color is too loud to be shuttered away from the world by four windows and a growling engine, but still I keep the dilapidated duster.

I tell myself I keep it because I wouldn’t get much for it. The old lady who used to own it never did know much about anything she put a key into, and the engine’s hoarse in her memory. The duck tape on the torn cloth top; the old, nearly bald tires; the muffler that might as well not exist—selling it might cover a month’s rent or a fancy night on the City, but not much more.

That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

But I know the truth. I don’t keep it because selling it wouldn’t make enough; I keep it for days like this.

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Late at night, I wonder if she ever really had feelings for me. That’s what’s been most difficult: not her leaving, but rather wondering if she was honest.

What’s most difficult is . . . did she really look at me, try to get to know me? Was she open to it? Does she really not have time, or did she look at me and realize, nah, not this one (and then there’s the nagging, well, if I’d handled my feelings better, would it have changed anything, but no, that way lay madness)?

That’s what counts, mostly.

I’d say that she was the first girl in a while I felt anything for, that she was the first girl since my ex- that I really wanted, but that’d be a lie. There were three years between my ex- and her, and those years weren’t filled with girls, no, but they were filled with misplaced emotions.

Misplaced emotions. Not like I lost anything. Just kinda stopped thinkin’ about where I was puttin’ shit.

I fell for her. Girls will only play the games you let them, will only hurt you as hard as you let them, and she crushed me and hollowed me out because I let her. I let her get inside me, and why?

Because one day I saw her smile, and one day she kissed me back, and one day I let her in.

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I write to
And about
Will be someone.
Eventually, my lady, you
Will have a
A personality,
A face.
Eventually I will know
Just who you are,
You, about whom I have
Wondered for years.
Eventually I will not
Have to settle for a
Good time.
Eventually I will
Find you,
Know you when I
See you,
Hear you,
When your soft, light
Finally echo from my
Dreams to my floor.
Thank God I’m


One of six poems in the collection, and one of the earliest overall. I wrote it during college, which is also true of “Inspiration Point,” “This Ain’t Wonderland,” and “A New Drink.” This was, of course, at a time when I thought every line of a poem should be capitalized (I’m no longer sure, and I’d concede this one might look better without the capped lines). These and my other college poems were the ones that came closest to not making it into the collection, in fact, because I thought so much else seemed so much stronger, but one of the good things about doing it in the first place was recording those times.

I think every writer has early work that makes them cringe a little. I know I have a novel on the top shelf of the closet in my parents basement, which will, as far as I’m concerned, remain there forever (or at least until they move), a big, thick, hunk of a novel I thought it took nearly a ream of paper to tell. I’m pretty sure it’s up near 500 single-spaced pages.

Better I offer you the poems than that, I think. The poems, it’s fun to see how I’ve grown.

The novel you might just bludgeon me with were I to try to sell it to you.

As well you should.

It’s nice to know, as well as a little ironic, that a couple of you cited this and other poetry as your favorite. We are so rarely good at judging what of our work will appeal to others.


Like this? Remember to buy the book; it’s only available for a limited time, and all proceeds go to the United Way NYC as tribute to those we lost on September 11th, 2001.

Caught via Hugo-award winning and NYT bestselling author John Scalzi (and congrats on both counts there), the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Gordon Van Gelder, posts about the fate of short fiction online and asks for comments and feedback from readers regarding it.

His basic premise is the fear that if you start giving stuff away, no one will pay for it. Not just in the case of a specific author but rather in the case of publishing overall; if magazines start allowing readers to read online and for free the stories they print, no one will want to buy stories anymore. Which strikes me as quite a slippery slope of an argument, and I worry he’ll lose control of his toboggan.

I tend to understand his fears, though, I think, because really, it makes a lot of sense. I’ll note that since I started offering Entrekin as a free download, the downloads have shot way up though the sales have remained pretty steady. But it also makes sense in other ways.

I’ve been neglecting my other two blogs lately (writing and prepping for teaching tend to make me laser-focus), but had I been keeping up, I would have pointed to, the new website of science fiction/fantasy publisher TOR books. So far, I’m quite stunned by its execution; in range and scope, I think it’s rather amazing, and exactly the sort of things publishers need to be doing more often. Free stories. Free novels, even. Forums for readers. Reading is not just about words on a page; it’s about community and culture, and in one fell swoop, Tor has realized the combination of the two. It’s damned near perfect, and I can only imagine it will get better.

When posted Scalzi’s short story, “After the Coup”, the story managed nearly 50,000 hits in two weeks, a number that is, approximately, equal to the number of subscribers to three of the biggest science fiction/fantasy magazines combined. When Van Gelder pointed out that all those subscribers pay, whereas readers are getting a freebie, Scalzi apparently responded he was “comparing eyeballs to eyeballs.”

Which puts it pretty well, I think. Because in neither case is either number a certain count of readers. One might hope, I guess, that a subscriber would read an entire magazine, but I don’t think I ever have; every magazine I’ve ever subscribed to, there’s usually one article each issue that’s a stinker.

In fact,’s implementation seems like the perfect execution in an online world: a publisher gets behind an author, and gets first-look rights at what that author creates, which it can post on its website for an industry-standard fee. Readers can view it free, authors get paid, and publishers get free marketing (New! Exclusive Junot Diaz story! Only at!).

Used to be that publication made sense, if solely for purposes of distribution; there was no way to get a lot of books to a lot of people without having the kind of operation only a major publisher could implement. Nowadays, though, sites like this seem to indicate that nearly 1.5 billion people in the world have Internet access, whereas something like 90% of books sell fewer than 1000 copies. Which seems to me to indicate that there’s a giant disconnect between content creation and content distribution, if only because so many Internet users read. Blogs, e-mail, news . . . it’s really just a giant database full of information and content.

I’ve read Seth Godin claim that books are really just souvenirs, and I’m not entirely sure about that one way or the other, but I do think that magazines and newspapers well could be. They are holders of information, but certainly no longer the best method of delivery of that information. I’d say I’m reasonably informed about global news, but I literally cannot remember the last time I actually even saw a newspaper, much less picked one up or read one.

Van Gelder notes:

So I started to wonder: has short fiction been devalued by the fact that so many places offer it for free online nowadays?

But when was the value of any fiction ever determined by the price people are willing to pay? All of Shakespeare’s work is public domain and available free, online, and what’s more, no one has to pay to produce or perform any of it.

What I think Van Gelder really means, though, is that we may be coming to a point where writers no longer need a short fiction marketplace (and I realize this is another slope of the slippery type, but still). In Japan last year, 5 of the 10 bestselling novels were distributed neither online nor by book but rather to readers’ cell phones. No mistake, the industry as a whole is changing markedly, and I think most professionals within it will learn to adapt to new ways of doing the business of getting good content to interested consumers, which is really basically all publishing actually is, anyway.

Personally, I’m still mainly surprised that The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction still only accepts queries by traditional mail. No electronic submissions.

I mean, seriously, what’s up with that?

(though they do accept payment for sample issues through PayPal. Interesting that)

BookChase is one of my very favorite literary/book review blogs; it’s proprietor, a fella named Sam, writes rather extraordinary, particularly cogent reviews about the books he reads. Just the other day, Sam linked to this Washington Post article concerning Chris Bohjalian and his feelings concerning reviews of his books, specifically on

Sam uses the article as an opportunity to offer some thoughts on his own amateur status as a book reviewer:

I do sincerely try to be fair in every review that I write and I don’t make a habit of taking cheap shots, although I imagine it’s happened more times than I realize or intended. In fact, I’ve had some nice comments from some of the authors I’ve most criticized saying that they appreciate honest reviews and can see the point I was making – and then they usually tell me why they think I am wrong. Fair enough, that, and I very much appreciate their willingness to discuss their work with someone as anonymous as me.

It’s a difficult dilemma, I think. Especially concerning the Internet and the basically egalitarian voice it gives everyone. Over here, at, one commenter noted:

I bet if you too a brief census of the artists who heard any commentary about their work while at SDCC, approximately 100% would say that on at least more than one occasion, someone took a proverbial “shit in their cornflakes” while expressing their opinions about something. Unfortunately, some people use “criticism” or “just being honest” as an excuse to be an asswipe. In that respect, if you’re going to be an artist and your going to put your stuff out there for scrutiny, best for all parties involved that you develop a healthy tolerance for all such people.

My response there was:

The Internet seems to have created more critics than academia, and most are worse if only because they generally have trouble both having a cogent thought and spelling it correctly. That said, I don’t see why wanting to share one’s work with other people includes the necessity for developing a healthy tolerance for asswipes. Fuck asswipes.

A sentiment Bookchase’s post refreshed.

I mentioned before I’m still learning how (if at all) to respond to reactions to Entrekin; there have been a couple of reactions, anonymous and otherwise, that I’ve seen and which made me want to say: “Wait, who are you? What, exactly, have you ever done?” I mean, there’s subjective stuff like someone didn’t like it, and I get that. But people who bash my grammar/style just make me want to say, “Look, I was a professional editor and have a Master’s degree in Professional Writing. I tend to not simply know grammar better than most textbooks but also understand its fluid nature.”

This isn’t to say I believe in grammatical anarchy, mind you. I generally reference Shakespeare as someone who played with language and grammar, but of course he knew what he was doing beforehand, which is the big requirement. You can bend or break the rules all you’d like, but to do so, you must know the rules you’re breaking, why they’re rules, and why you’re breaking them.

The reason I bring this up now is that I’m starting to wonder about “amateur” reviewers, if mainly because all the professional venues are pretty much going the way of the dodo. Newspapers left and right are decreasing their coverage of books, and well they should, but really I’m surprised they exist in the first place, anymore. I can’t even remember the last time I actually touched a newspaper, and most of the magazines I read anymore are available in full online. Why buy Rolling Stone when I can read all the stories via the Internet?

And if so much reading is occurring online anyway, why go to those publications? One of the biggest revolutions the Internet has brought on is the removal of middlemen between creators and consumers of content. I don’t yet think this works for novels, which is why I’m not yet considering Lulu to self-publish my own, but most publications have Internet presences, anyway. I’ve been working on some short stories lately, and my thought is, when I finish them, I can either submit them for publication and rely on someone else who may or may not be as qualified as I am to edit, or I can just post them here (or in et cetera). Some people think that publishing in big ole’ publications confers some sort of authority, but I’m more of the mind that quality of content, and not method of distribution, should confer authority.

Which means I’m of the mind that yes, everyone has a voice, but very few actually deserve to be listened to.

The Bulwer-Lytton prize, named after the author who first set down “It was a dark and stormy night,” is a parody award given to bad writing.

This year’s “winners” have been announced.

Thing is, I’d totally read a novel that began:

Mike Hummer had been a private detective so long he could remember Preparation A, his hair reminded everyone of a rat who’d bitten into an electrical cord, but he could still run faster than greased owl snot when he was on a bad guy’s trail, and they said his friskings were a lot like getting a vasectomy at Sears.

Because, seriously, a Sears vasectomy is the sort of imagery that would keep me going at least 50 more pages.

In fact, I kinda think the only bad thing about that entry is the comma splice after “Preparation A.”

More winners:

2008 Results.

What a couple of days.

Orientation over the weekend to get started at the college where I’ll be teaching. All day session, and I think the catered lunch made me ill, but beyond a perturbed stomach, I’m pleased to say it all went really well. I think I’ve mentioned it’s a community college close by, and I’ve picked up three classes to teach, which should be good, if intense. Two of them are already full, with 23 students, and I’m wagering the last one will fill up before Tuesday.

So now I’m lesson-planning and syllabus-building and suchlike.

One of the interesting things that’s come out of the orientation is the information that we, as teachers, can’t penalize for absences, but yet the school requires us to include an attendance policy on our syllabi. I’m not quite sure what policy they want given that penalization is apparently against state law. It’s like Eddie Izzard’s joke about career counselors: “I advise you to get a career.” I think my attendance policy defaults to: “Well, I advise you to attend, thanks.”

Other than that, it’s a good challenge coming up with the syllabus and familiarizing myself with a new curriculum. I’m still deciding how I’m going to grade.

And then on Tuesday I shook hands with a guy named Mike Fisher when he congratulated me on getting accepted into Regis’ MBA program. I haven’t decided whether to go general or concentrate in marketing, but I’ve got at least a semester to decide; I’ve first got to take some foundation courses about basic business stuff I never studied because I was too busy in labs and writing books.

Man, am I ever excited.

I read an interview with Andrew Gross yesterday (I can’t locate the link this morning. Sorry). Gross is a frequent co-author of James Patterson and a bestselling author in his own right, and he compared working with Patterson to getting both an MFA and an MBA at the same time. Point being: I think it’s going to help in the next few years.

And plus, it’s something I can use. I joked to both my mother and Fisher that, you know, I figured I got a degree in literature, and then I got one in writing, and now I think maybe it’s about time I got a degree I can actually, you know, use for something. Something practical, in fact, and in something I enjoy, to boot.

So I think things are about to get intense, but in the best possible way.

Earlier today, I got an e-mail from Cheryl Anne Gardner of POD People. I queried their site a while ago in the hope that they might review Entrekin. I figured they were just so backed up with books and reviews that they hadn’t had the chance to respond, which I understood; authors, self-published or otherwise, always hope for reviews of their books and so always query reviewers to do so, and I’d wager a book reviewers pile of books to read is similar in size, scope, range, and even quality, to editors’ and agents’ slushpiles. But the good news is that Gardner wrote me to let me know that she was going to review it probably shortly.

Which I’m just thrilled by.

So look for that soon.

I bring it up, though, because part of the reason Cheryl wrote was what occurred on the occassion of my first ever review. It was at the PODler (you can find a link in the archives here. Sorry, but I’d rather not link there myself; it only just fell from number 1 Google result, and I’d rather not put it back up there), and it was the sort of excellent for which a word like “glowing” is an understatement (“This is the writing of bestsellers.” So rad), and it was a thrillingly and overwhelmingly positive experience until a handful of anonymous commenters showed up to attack me.

Not my writing. Not my book. Me.

The most prevalent was the one I mentioned yesterday: “I won’t argue that Entrekin is a great writer,” which then went on to comment that I was “full of” myself.

I mentioned it yesterday and that I was happy it no longer came up as the first Google hit because can you just imagine an agent being intrigued by my query enough to hit Google only to find that as the first hit? I’d wager their first thought would be that I’m some prima donna author who thinks I’m the heir apparent to Stephen King and Jo Rowling and will become resentful when others don’t bow before my literary genius.

To which I say, in my best Wayne impression, shyaah!, not to mention: not!

Because seriously. I mean, what do you say to that? “Quite frankly, I resent the implication that I am full of myself. In fact, I am half-empty of myself, because I am a pessimist, and to fill the rest I seek meaningless sex, excessive alcohol, and the adoration of a whole bunch of people whom I will probably never meet except via the Internet (unless they come to an author signing).”

It’s kind of like being called defensive; if you defend yourself . . .

It’s probably silly to worry about, but I’ll admit it: I’m now past thirty and still worry about what other people think of me. I keep hoping that I’ll outgrow it someday, but someday continues to elude me so far.

But here’s the thing about one being full of one’s self:

I once heard that the difference between Eastern philosophy and Western religion is that the Western mode seeks external validation: from God, from the church, salvation through Christ, etc., whereas Eastern philosophy looks, instead, inward–toward the self. Toward the soul.

And that appeals to me. Which leads me to wonder if, according to Eastern philosophies, being full of one’s self isn’t a good thing? Or, at least, a goal to pursue?

I don’t know either way, but I’ll be personal for a moment, in a way I’m not usually, to tell you a story.

I went to a Jesuit college where I studied, among other subjects, theology (that my professor was a Jesuit priest trained as a Zen roshi might be why Eastern philosophy appeals so much to me). During that time, I became comfortable in my role on campus, in my role as a student, and then again in my role in commercial production. I won’t say I thought I had things pretty well figured out, and I read now the words I wrote then and I inwardly cringe, but, in a way, I felt somewhat full, I think. I was, largely, satisfied with my life.

And then September 11th. Which, I think, both emptied me out and made the vessel with which I was working larger (which, in turn, made it more difficult to fill). Suddenly, what had made sense before no longer did, and four years passed before I could really claim happiness again. Four years passed before I can really claim I felt full again. Satisfied.

And I remember the moment it changed again, when I realized I wanted to go to graduate school. It didn’t empty again, just made my vessel grow again, and so I drove across the country to Los Angeles, and I studied writing, and I began, again, to fill it. My vessel hadn’t grown so much as to require much fill, and then I published my book, and that helped it grow yet again.

And so I feel like the past few years have been a constant challenge of a growing vessel which I seek again and again to fill with my self. Each time my vessel grows, I seek new experiences, or new ways of seeing old ones, so that I can grow and fill it again.

It’s a challenge I have to admit I enjoy.

Full of myself? Sometimes, maybe. Perhaps. But when I’m really lucky there’s a little more room in the vessel yet to be filled, and the challenge of looking inward to do so is simultaneously one of the most difficult and most rewarding.

“I awake from a long, deep sleep
In a leaky little boat on a wide blue sea
I spy no islane, rock or shore
And the sea, she’s a-comin’ to me through a hole in the floor

And the tide come in and the tide go out
And the waves they came toss my little boat about
And the sky turn black and the sky turn blue
I got no pail, no sail, no anchor, too
Just a leaky little boat

And as I wake I look around
I have no notion where I’m bound
So many different colored boats I see
Are all leaky, lonely, and driftin’
Just like me

And the tide come in and the tide go out…

I spy no island rock or shore
And the sea keeps a-comin’ to me through a hole in the floor
Of my leaky little boat

Alone, adrift together are we
Slowly sinkin’ in a deep blue sea
But we smile and we wave
And we say, “I’m afraid…and I love you…and here we go…”
Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, “Leaky Little Boat”

(update: edited to paraphrase the anonymous quote in question, for Google-rific reasons)

Two nice spots of news today.

The first is that I got a request for a partial of The Prodigal Hour. I sent along the first fifty pages, which, nicely, end on what I think is a rather awesome chapter-break-cliffhanger.

Interestingly, the request came yesterday. Which the observant among you will notice was a Sunday, because, apparently, the Internet and e-mail and the digital age have rendered the five day workweek quaint, at best. In fact, the agent in question came to my attention via Twitter.

Brave new world indeed.

The other is totally geeky but something I was relieved about: Google. After I deleted my MySpace page, the first Google hit on my name linked to the PODler’s review, which was an excellent review, except for some reason Google excerpted a portion of the comments to the search results, so that what came up, rather than that my book was “poetic” and “cinematic” and “the writing of bestsellers” and “a stellar collection by a writer of promise,” was that I was a great writer who was full of myself.

I guess the traffic link, or whatever determines Google ranking, expired recently, because now my website is the first thing that comes up. No mention of my being full of myself.

Which is nice.

Anyway, I’m obviously far more excited about the partial request. Also: hopeful. You should be, too; The Prodigal Hour is just a little bit closer to you.

So wish it luck, because the more luck it has, the sooner you’re going to get it.

And come on: you know you want it.

I went to an information session today at Regis University, a Jesuit institution in northern Denver. I think it’s best I didn’t manage to get into the University of Denver’s PhD program, but I still want to continue schooling somewhere. Thing is, there are two options now, both with Regis.

The first is another MBA, this time in religious studies. I’m fascinated by religion in all ways, but more important, I sense something right now. See, I’m thinking specifically of guys like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, both of whom wrote mega-bestselling books concerning the fact that religion is, at its heart, a bad idea.

But I think there’s a foundation for all religious thought and pursuit, really. Personally, I don’t believe there’s any difference between a spell, a prayer, and a meditation session; all are, at their bases, pretty much mainly modes of positive thinking. Same thing with that The Secret book from last year or so.

The problem, I think, is that Harris and Hitchens lack a scientific background, and are approaching religion from a mainly philosophical/ethical point of view.

Which is fine, of course.

But I think it misses some very huge things. I honestly think that the fact that most people believe in something of a divine nature has some substantive argument to it. But most of all, I think the more one examines biology and quantum electromechanics and physics, the more one starts to not just believe but realize that there’s something greater going on.

Einstein himself said that religion without science is lame, but science without religion is blind.

And I think there’s something there.

So I could, in theory, design a degree in something like scientific deology (they’re not allowed to use the word “theology,” apparently, for some Arch-Diocesan reason [okay, so there’s a spot where Hitchens and Harris have a point]), and ultimately produce a book I’m planning, called Godology, on the application of the scientific method to areas including God and the afterlife.

Or, I could go for an MBA. Which would really sort of be the first practical degree I could actually use I’d be earning.

And the thing is, it’s not a question of passion or love or whathaveyou, because just the existence of this blog and all I’ve done related to writing is evidence of how I’m fascinated by marketing and branding. I’m aiming for “Entrekin” to become a brand every bit as much as Crichton and King and Gaiman are. I’m not solely concerned with the airy-fairy artsy-fartsy aspect of writing, which is the most major reason I chose USC to study writing; it was about professional writing. About the craft of it yes, but also about selling it.

Because I’ll be honest; I’m not solely trying to write the best books I can. I’m also trying to get them to as many readers as I possibly can.

And part of that is marketing. Part of that is both about analyzing target audience and then reaching it.

So this weekend, I’ve got some figuring out to do. I think, ultimately, the MBA is probably more practical, and I’ll certainly write Godology anyway.

For some reason (probably that I hit the wrong button), this didn’t publish the other day. It was meant to post on Wednesday.

So I walked into my interview today hyped up, totally in the zone, and smiling.

And I walked out with a job.

I think that’s pretty cool.

Three courses in the fall. Which is two more than I’ve ever taught simultaneously, but I’m both up to and looking forward to the challenge.

Now I’m just wondering if I should open with “My students called me sensei.”


And oh, shit, we’re totally about to get it.

I mean, I tried to keep my expectations in check. I really have. Ever since The Matrix: Revolutions sucked my balls (and not in that pleasant ball-sucking sort of way), and The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, I’ve tried to go into movies with lowered expectations. I had looked forward to Ironman, but I gave it a few weeks. I wasn’t first in line.

But then I see this:

And I just can’t help myself.

Because OMGWTFBBQWOOTFTW, can you seriously watch that trailer and not look forward to this movie?

If you can, I hate to break it to you, but you might be at the wrong blog.

Hey, all good. These things happen.

“Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

And others exist also to blow shit up.

I won’t be first in line, though. Oh, no. Because apparently, everyone else already is. I mean, seriously, more than a week before its release and it’s already on pace to beat Spiderman 3?

Ladies and gentleman, this is one to watch.

So what do you say: shall we?

(I’m trying really, really hard not to fawn over a movie I haven’t seen yet, but as you can see, I’m failing quite spectacularly)

I’m a regular reader of Mighty God King, who allowed me to guest post in his blog, like this one, on Doctor Who and stories.

And yes, I quite appreciate the irony of this post, given the one most immediately previous.

But hey, I also finished a chapter.

Do you care that I’m still “almost done” my novel? Something I’ve been saying for a bit, I realize (if, by “a bit,” I mean, like, two years), but well, closer every day. That stumbling block the other day knocked me a bit sideways, and the ending is, and always has been, a trouble spot. Namely because I know the precise effect I’m trying to go for but haven’t a clue how to frickin’ do it.

So I’m experimenting. I’ve written and rewritten it several times already, not counting previous drafts.

I’ve been hesitating to continue posting about it, though. One of my favorite Hemingway quotes, and perhaps the smartest (not to mention: most sober) things I’ve ever heard he said was: “Fuck ’em. Let ’em think you were born knowing how to write.”

Or something to that effect.

Which is why I’ll admit I sometimes struggle with blogging (and probably why I take so many breaks from it), not just as an activity but as a culture. With blogging and MySpace/Facebook and now with Twitter . . . just how connected do people need to be? How much do I really need to know about people? Do I care what you’re listening to? More important: do you care what I’m listening to?

The thing is, many regard it as the answer or solution for writers and publishing, which they see as “in decline.” Oh, whatever will we do, peepul dont reed no morez11!! You’ve heard the lamentations. You’ve seen the YouTube videos, and if you haven’t, there’s this one, which caught on in the blogosphere a while ago:


The thing about it is that I think it’s pretty uniformly utter bullshit (and I like that that video highlights that). Book trailers? Book videos? Lulu has some marketing package thing that includes bookmarks and, like, postcards or some shit.

I can’t believe readership is down, or if it is, not for the reasons many suspect, like the “ADHD Internet culture”; the utter and nearly spontaneous proliferation of blogs seems to me to demonstrate otherwise. It took, what, nearly 20,000 years or something for the human race to reach the 1 billion mark, while blogs reached double that number in, like, two hours or something (I’m using hyperbole here, obviously, but only just).

I think it’s more about a signal-to-noise ratio, because I think readers thirst for content. I think our culture is starved for it, in fact. I think one of the reason for this proliferation is that people are starving for something they are looking to such 2.0 stylistic hoodoo to provide.

If readership is down, I think it’s because there are too few writers, and I mean real writers out there actually doing their job. One of my other favorite quotes, which traces back to a pseudonym used on the Well many moons ago (but possibly still in use), was “You’re an author! Fuck off and auth!” How many writers with popular blogs have actually managed to write good books?

(and yes, I realize that begins to get into the subjective nature of “good” and such, but I’m not tackling that here)

One of the major points I think all this examination of web 2.0 and its relationship to writers and books has summarily and utterly missed is that you can market the hell out of a mediocre book and it doesn’t actually make the book any better. And readers know that.

The thing is that it’s focus on two disparately different things: the writing of a book versus the selling of it. Two completely different functions and activities with, I’d argue, very little in common. And yes, I would be among the first to note that it’s no longer enough for writers to simply write their books, that proactive energy is necessary, but while it may not be enough, that’s where it starts.

The other thing is that the Internet and its numbers don’t translate. I learned this personally, on MySpace; I established a rather substantial readership of nearly 4,000 friends and 1,200 subscribers to my blog. My blog had nearly 3,000 views per day when I realized I wanted to publish my collection. And I won’t say it was summarily ignored (far from it), but those numbers certainly didn’t transfer from one situation to the other.

I think Entrekin has gotten about as much attention as it ever deserved to; some, certainly, because I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t thought it was good, but not a lot, because it’s certainly not a great book–it’s a book collecting a bunch of stories by a writer discovering his voice in the process of telling them. The order of the pieces is very nearly chronological (which, I think, demonstrates said evolution), to culminate in the first two chapters of my novel. It’s not perfect (and even the novel chapters have since changed rather markedly), but it’s a record, and concerning the people in whom it does manage to strike a chord, it seems to do so deeply. What negative response it seems to provoke has less to do with the book than it does with people’s perception of me, as a person.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to digress and really have no idea how I ended up where I now find myself, but that’s my story. An ironic call to arms, probably, from a guy who maintains (roughly) three separate blogs, but I hope a call to arms nonetheless, if to no one else but myself. Because, really, it’s time for me to finish a good book.

I don’t know how or why I finally thought of the approach, but I know it came from Billy Joel and “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” I think I won the tape in a dance contest when I was in, like, sixth grade. Or my buddy took that one and I took Faith No More’s Epic.

Anyway, I love this video:

It also led me to this one, called “Life is a Rock (but the radio rolled me),” by Reunion. Which I’d never heard of, but like a lot:

Both (especially the latter) remind me somewhat of Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week,” except that they’re, you know, kinda good.

Man, have I ever been blocked. Totally for seriously.

And one thing about me is that I’m a Taurus. Remember I hit 30 last month?

Okay, so here’s my story about writer’s block.

Usually, when asked about writer’s block, I say I don’t believe in it. Because I don’t, really. I tend to look at writing not as a talent or matter of inspiration but rather of craft, and that if you sit down and do it, it works. I try to work on multiple projects simultaneously, though, because I also know that you just can’t force anything, or maybe shouldn’t.

And I have been. I’m finishing The Prodigal Hour, and at the same time working on two projects that I’ve mentioned before even if never in much depth; one is tentatively titled A Little Heaven, the other Meets Girl. Both are marked changes of pace for me, as a writer; both first-person narratives (despite that nearly every piece in Entrekin is told first-person, it’s not my usual mode for writing. I tend to prefer third-limited, probably because I grew up reading Koontz and King and Crichton before I moved onto Gaiman. You can trace some lineage, not to mention influences, there). I’ve tried to switch back and forth between projects when the going got tough.

This time, I failed. Because I wanted to finish my novel so much. Because I like it so much. And so normally, when I would have worked on something else as I felt the story klurge to a halt because it just wasn’t yet ready, the stubborn, belligerent, dammit-do-you-know-who-I-am-and-what-I-can-do Taurus in me kicked in, and seriously, yo, fuck that bull, man.

Anyway, I spent a few days anxious. Restless. The sort of days that inspired the old exchange between James Joyce and his wife–

James’ wife: What’s the matter, honey?
Joyce: I wrote seven words today!
James’ wife: But that’s great! That’s almost your usual tally.
Joyce: But I don’t know what order they go in!

I’d write a paragraph, and then realize, no. Then do it again. Then open previous drafts and try to flip through–

Anyway. Long story short, I’m making my way out of it. More slowly than I would like, but with some certainty. And no, I didn’t finish by July, as I had hoped, but man, I can taste it.

(sometimes that’s the most fucking frustrating feeling in the entire damned world)

So that’s where I was.

And that’s where I’ll be. Wrestling the fog. Because that’s what it’s like, really; it’s a slippery, elusive little fucker you just can’t find a decent grip on to save your fuckin’ life. In its way like happiness, or love, but in its own way again more frustrating than either and, in a way yet again, more rewarding.

I’m coming, once again, into the final heat of my novel. It’s a space I feel like I’ve been a thousand times already, which is funny, really, and a situation you’ll see the humor/irony in once you’ve read it. I’ve realized it needs a bit of restructuring, consolidation here and re-chaptering there, and I know there are now three key elements to write (after which, it’s mostly just pruning).

But I feel like I got it last time. The last draft, reading it (and writing it, for that matter), felt like an epiphany. Felt like the first time I really understood the story I was trying to tell, and what it was about (what? I’m dense like that sometimes).

I think part of the issue was that the story changed so hard between the first draft and one I wrote just as I started graduate school; not just because my writing improved, but also because of September 11th, which is somewhat significant in the story. The book itself is set on October 31, 2001, so the world is still, in a way, feeling the impact of those planes, and, in many ways, hasn’t yet understood how it will continue to be affected.

And now at the real end. Because I’ve realized that it’s time to move on. After this draft, I’ve said all I can of this story. I’m going to finish before the end of the month, and then next month will be devoted to job searching and submissions, two process which, I think, probably share a lot in common. I’m also going to finish a couple of short stories I’ve been thinking of, and then . . .

Well, lots. There’s a lot I’m uncertain of, considering the next project, considering what forms they may take, considering a lot of things, but then again, there’s a little voice in the back of my head I imagine as spoken by a sweet old man with giant spectacles and the sort of mischievous grin only someone familiar with magic can pull off, and he’s whispering in my ear, “Just sit down and write write write.”

As advice goes, I’m not sure there’s better at this point.


So, when I handed it in as my thesis, my novel, The Prodigal Hour, clocked in at roughly 104,000 words.

Besides some job hunting and basic settling in during the past two weeks, I’ve been doing pretty much nothing besides revising. I bound a few copies using Lulu, then cracked it open with some notes from some trusted friends . . .

I’m proud of this, for the first time. I read the whole book pretty fresh, trying to see it as a new reader might despite that I wrote the damned thing (arguably the single greatest stumbling block to revision), but the thing I keep noticing is that I like it.

I try to avoid “good.” Or “great.” Or “fucking rad.” But I’m so psyched that I can just about say, “Wow, I wrote a book I like.”

I’ve been cutting like mad. So far, I’ve hacked nearly 10,000 words off, and I’m hoping for another several thousand. But the cool thing is that I’ve noticed, after cutting the extraneous words, that the words that remain are shiny.

And I’m having fun. Oh, boyhow.

I thought I’d share a bit with you:

Chance laughed. “I’m not sure you could’ve, Cass.” He thought of all those traveling men with their quills and parchments, with their boats and their spears, and if he had possessed a compass, he would have taken it up to rechart the world before him, tygers be damned. This place was his. He claimed it. The present we share, but the past and the future belong to Chance.

Made me smile, anyway.

So, off to finish. My goal is this weekend. And then: submissions, as well as maybe a few sleeve-tricks. I’ve got nothing up them, but you should know by now I might just produce a rabbit, anyway.

Abracadabra, motherfucker.

When I got to USC’s writing program, I was lucky that I had already completed at least a draft of a novel; truth is, I’d finished several drafts by then, and I was about half-finished the then-current draft. I actually completed it a few weeks after I took my first class, and then I set it aside to write it as a screenplay before I picked it up to start it all over again.

I mention this because it had some effect on how I approached the program; besides the thesis/final project, there was also an opportunity to take a semester of guided research with the faculty mentor nearly of one’s choice. Given that I already had a draft, I bypassed that semester in favor of other classes and workshops.

When it came time to take my guided research, I chose a man named Sid Stebel as my advisor. Sid is a great, puckish guy with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, and we got along like gangbusters. He can be very opinionated, but also allows he could be wrong. I guess what I liked was that he wasn’t afraid to make suggestions. That, and that the man knew stories. He knew them well (his book, Double Your Creative Power!, is built around his idea of secret story, which I’d actually like to study further), and a lot of times, you could just tell. Some of his suggestions for the way characters might interact in the context of the story’s structure . . .

Yeah, I learned a lot from Sid. I like to think there are ways we’re alike, and not just considering we’re both fair writers.

I mention Sid, however, because one thing Sid likes to talk about is Ray Bradbury; he and Ray go back many years, and they’ve shared a friendship through the years. When I found out, I kinda flipped a little.

I like Ray Bradbury for a somewhat obscure reason. Back when I was a sophomore in college, my history professor assigned Fahrenheit 451. I read and enjoyed it immensely, but what really caught my attention was a ‘Coda’ my buddy, captain doctor Brian, pointed out to me in his edition. In this Coda, Bradbury talked about critics and reviewers, and he said, and I’ll never forget this:

“Get off our fields and let us play.”

I loved that. Immensely. My father taught me early on about criticism, that there were always going to be people who had something negative to say, but they’re not the one’s down there, wrestling the lions–he used to allude to a quote by either Hemingway or JFK, I can’t remember which (though I think it was the latter). It’s something I continue to struggle with, in fact, the just-playing part, because I’ll admit I sometimes pay too close attention to how my writing is received. I know I shouldn’t, but old habits etc.

I’ve always liked allusions, and there are many in my novel: to Bradbury, yes, but also to Fitzgerald, Eliot, Williams, and Whitman, among others. They’re quick enough you’ll miss most of them if you blink, but they’re there. I mean, you write a time travel novel, you ought to pause time when there’s an explosion, and when it’s raining, and if it’s gonna be raining, it oughta be a storm, and if there’s a storm, you can bet there’s going to be a sound of thunder (all that’s part of story theory, by the way. That there are certain elements that just make sense given a story’s framework, and how it functions). My protagonist, in fact, happens to live on Bradbury Lane.

So when I found out Stebel was friends with Ray, I had to ask if he could get my novel to Ray.

Sid didn’t think that was the best idea, given Bradbury’s current health, which isn’t bad, exactly, don’t think that, but certainly Ray reads way less books than he used to. But, he said, perhaps an excerpt, a few pages where the story kicked, where there was something that really pulled out all the stops . . .

Well, lemme tell you, I’ve got plenty of pages like that. There aren’t any stops in my novel, because I pulled every last one of them out.

And if I sent him that, Sid could send the pages along to Ray. Maybe, he said, we could even get a quote from Ray for my book.

At this point, I’ll tell you, I’m struggling not to get too excited. Not so much about a possibly Bradbury quote to put on the cover of my novel, though, yes, of course, how fucking awesome would that be? But Ray Bradbury! Reading something I wrote!

Two weeks ago, I sent Sid a few pages from the climax of my novel. I was pushing hard by the time I wrote them, trying to fire on all cylinders at once, really nailing down the theme while never forgetting, hey, there are characters to care about here, and what’re they doing? I do some experimenting with both typography and formatting at certain points in my book, but I cut them from the climax, solely wanting an honest, sincere moment, making the effort to rely solely on the strength of my words to make readers feel something and trying to avoid clever at all costs.

Sid sent it along immediately.

So for two weeks I’ve been on pins and needles, here. Trying not to hyperventilate, and trying not to get too excited.

Turns out I probably shouldn’t have worried.

I got an e-mail from Sid last night; Ray called him late Wednesday evening to comment on what he’d read. He was, apparently, extraordinarily encouraging (Sid paraphrased), and he said to just sit down and write write write like he did with The Martian Chronicles.

Ray Bradbury. The Martian Chronicles. Write write write.

I’m smiling.

A quote, something to put on the cover of my book, even a single word like “Splendid!” probably would have been enough to start a career on. But then again, I realize, I already started it, and while a blurb from Ray Bradbury probably would have helped me sell it, that, up there, is the real part of it. The real part of it is not the selling it; it’s the sitting down to write write write every day, and maybe I needed that reminder. Sure, I’ll admit, I really would have liked to have a Bradbury quote, but maybe I’ve got to learn that I don’t need it, that what I really need is to work harder, to sit down and keep at it, and to be honest about it. Because it reminds me that a few words on either cover won’t have any effect on the words between them, and those are the ones that count. And those are really the only part I have any control over.

If I don’t remember that, no matter how many books I sell, no matter how many stories I tell, no matter how many pages I write, it arguably won’t be much of a career, anyway, much less a devotion.

And here I thought yesterday’s search was the funny one. I hadn’t seen anything yet, apparently:

My only comment is I hope whoever it was found whatever he or she was looking for.

Also, I’ve decided a further use for et cetera: I’m going to keep a running booklog there, with reviews. Put the first one up today: Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, which I thought was pretty damned brilliant (I ended up rating it a “Crazy Train.” You’ll have to read the review to find out what that means. But it makes sense if you do).

Anyway, probably quiet this weekend; lots of horrible writing to do.

As you may or may not have noticed (if you read this on any regular basis), I became a little too busy in the past few weeks to keep up with Imagery and et cetera. But that’s okay; I got lots of pictures and even some videos from the road that I’ll be posting to the former on a more regular basis, and let’s face it, the publishing industry moves at a glacial enough pace that missing out on a couple of weeks of news doesn’t make much difference (NEWS: books were published! People read them! Some even liked some of them!).

But anyway, here’s a new picture at Imagery; it’s of my final image of USC.

And in et cetera, a couple of publishing manifestos from people contemplating the future of books, as well as the Los Angeles Times’ evisceration of James Frey’s new A Bright Shiny Morning, which sounds like it’s every bit as bad as A Million Little Pieces, only just not pretending to be true.

But finally, one of the reasons I think I’m going to be able to keep up better again; everything at USC is done, handed in, graded, and finalized. I got my final semester grades; I pulled a 3.8. Back when I was an undergraduate, that would have meant I graduated summa cum laude; I’m not sure if that’s the case in graduate school, but still, I’m happy with my performance. Two B+s on my transcript, but one came from Irvin Kerschner and the other came from Janet Fitch, and hell, that’s cool by me.

Now, on the other end of things, I have somewhat mixed feelings about most MFA writing programs, but I can honestly say that going to Los Angeles was one of the single greatest decisions I ever made in my life, and, I think, helped determine the future course of it. I’m in a ludicrous amount of debt and now have to figure out what I’m going to do with a degree in writing, of all things, but still, baby, while it lasted, it was one for the books.

I’m a fairly frequent reader of Nick Mamatas’ LiveJournal since I discovered it not long ago (though I can’t remember how). Mamatas mostly seems a pretty interesting guy, and I noted some things in common; we’ve both just recently handed in a thesis to Master’s programs, . . . well. And that’s about it. He’s got quite the track record–winner of a Stoker and nominated for both another Stoker and an International Horror Guild Award. And he’s the editor of Clarkesworld, an ezine/literary mag (is it just me or is there becoming very little difference between an online zine and a blog?).

Mamatas recently posted about banning a writer from submitting to Clarkesworld. This isn’t the first time such banning has been mentioned: see here and here.

All three seem to be instances in which writers respond to rejections, which I’ll be the first to acknowledge is not something writers should do. Rejection is part of the process, part of the story, part of the life. If you’re not prepared to get rejected fairly often and fairly conclusively, go to med school and invest some hours in becoming a doctor, because the pay’s way better, there’s more security, and if Grey’s Anatomy is any indication, it’s probably easier (I jest on that last note. One of my buddies is a doctor. One of the hardest working individuals I’ve ever met. That’s why we’re friends).

However, posting such correspondence on their blogs is not something editors should do.

If this were an isolated occurrence, I might never have brought it up, but it’s not. John Fox, who was on staff at Southern California Review, recently posted A Slush Pile Dispatch in which he inserted comments into a letter SCR received from an inmate. This was troubling not just for the vetting of such correspondence but because John was one of my classmates in the MPW program, a program I chose because it was supposed to be about professionalism, and not “arts”. For what it’s worth, and not that whoever wrote the letter will probably ever see it, but I’d like to note that John’s comments don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of the USC MPW program.

I’d also like to note two other things: first, that John is actually a great guy I’ve enjoyed taking classes with, which means I was a bit surprised by the post but don’t particularly hold it against him; and second, another post I found via John’s site (which, I just realized, I didn’t mention up above: John writes Book Fox, which is really pretty awesome. His interviews at the BookFest were terrific, and he’s going to be running another set soon from Book Expo America). This one over pointed to Fence, which is a literary magazine I’ve actually seen at a newsstand (unlike just about every other one).

In this post, editor and publisher Rebecca Wolff responded to a writer’s question about contributors’ copies by telling the writer to, and I quote, “Eat shit and die.”

When did this become acceptable behavior from editors?

I used to be an editor. For three years, I was assistant editor of the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services. The audience of said journal, which had a consumer magazine format, was two-fold: first, psychiatric and forensic nurses involved in the mental and behavioral health care industries.

The other was their patients.

Given that second audience, we received many, many queries and submissions from patients in private institutions that specialized in mental and behavioral health. People with clinical depression, bipolar disorder, body dysmorphia, autism spectrum disorders, and various addictions–as well as people in corrective populations (that’s prisons to you and me), juvenile offenders, and individuals who had great difficulty with lives I have difficulty imagining. We often received manuscripts handwritten in tiny scrawl over twenty pages– or phone calls to the office when particular submitters entered the manic phase of their bipolar cycles and decided to head to Atlantic City for a night of gambling and other self-destructive behaviors.

I edited articles by people who had been in the justice system, and not on the end with the gavel. I edited articles by nurses who had overcome addictions and illnesses to train and gain licensure to treat individuals coping with problems those nurses knew and understood perhaps more intimately than they would have liked. I admire sobriety, and I think of the nurses who found it and then dedicated their lives to helping other people find it, which I can’t imagine would have been easy, perhaps somewhat roughly akin to having alcoholism but going to a bar anyway, perhaps to bartend or perhaps again to try to lend the people who believed they needed a drink the ear and support they truly needed but didn’t want to admit.

But you know what? Besides me and my supervisor, no one ever heard about those letters. No one heard about the correspondences, many of which began before I ever started working there and continue, I’m certain, to this day.

Not only did I edit that magazine, but I’ve been reading Making Light since back when it was both Making Light and Electrolite, probably around 2001 or so (I remember I found it while I was working in Manhattan, which was 2000-2001). It’s maintained by Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden, two editors at TOR (well. I know Patrick is. I remember Teresa mentioned a position consulting for, I believe, a media company, but I’m not certain she left TOR to take that position).

I mention Making Light because it’s maintained by not one but two editors and features frequent contributions from people like Jo Walton and Dave Langford, and never once have I seen such an egregious lack of professional etiquette on that site. They’ve focused on takedowns of plagiarism and fly-by-night/scam publishers, certainly, but never anything like what I’ve seen going occurring lately.

I wish it would stop. I’d really like to see editors do their job, rather than sharing their jobs with the world. I’m a writer. Tell me your guidelines and your rates. Tell me the sorts of stories you’re looking for. Tell me, even, what you’re not looking for. Tell me about any upcoming anthologies you’re putting together, tell me about any projects you’re excited about and want me to be excited about, too.

But don’t tell me how you tell your contributors to “eat shit and die,” and don’t tell me how many you’ve banned, no matter how egregious those writers’ behaviors. Because I’m a writer, and if I see that’s how you’ve treated some prospective authors, or authors you’ve already even published, well, I can’t help but worry about how you’re going to treat me. And nowadays, we’ve got blogs, we’ve got Lulu, we’ve got book reviewers and designers, and the Internet makes it incredibly easy to meet people we need to when we want to, so what do we even need you for, anyway?

In the relationship of aspiring author and zine/mag editor, one person often has professional status, and one often does not (especially considering the word: “aspiring”). Here’s a helpful hint: if you’re paying for stories, you’re a professional editor, and you should act so.

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